Anna von Hausswolff @ Oxford O2 Academy 18.04.13

Oxford’s Cowley Road is, for better or worse, the epicentre when it comes to live music for the city. On the plus side, rooted in the centre of this musical ebullience is the excellent Atomic Burger restaurant.

Apr 18th, 2013 at Oxford O2 Academy / By Dave Reynolds
Anna Von Hausswolff On the night of Anna von Hausswolff supporting Efterklang on the first night of their U.K. tour, the current special at Atomic Burger was the Live Long and Prosper – consisting of a burger, blue cheese dressing, and deconstructed chicken wings. It turned out that these wings in particular would provide a useful point of reference for Anna’s show.

Anna’s four-track, half-hour set, like the aforementioned chicken wings, was missing what felt like some key structural integrity. And yet, this is what made it such a compelling and unique show. It opened up with the kind of motorized fuzz you’d expect to hear from a 250cc engine. Once Anna’s machine was running, the set dropped into ‘Epitaph of Thunder’, the lead track from her current album, Ceremony (City Slang). It’s a dark and bleak affair, creating a broody and atmospheric wall of noise with whiffs of guitar and drums coating the meandering keys.

Anna rocked back and forth at her keyboard (set firmly on ‘church organ’ mode), while her assembled band watched her intently to spot the changes. The organ keys, along with the wisps of smoke blowing past her helped make the show feel like some gothic religious occasion as her followers (sorry, her band) rocked and swayed based on her movements. At no point did it feel sanctimonious, but it was difficult to generate a feeling of engagement with it.

The second track of the set was when we got to hear Anna’s distinctive falsetto vocal. The haunting nature of it melds suitably with the mood she sets with her music. On a couple of occasions, the set steps out from its steady pace and throws in a heavy, crash-filled breakdown. This is when the real fun starts to happen, and everything comes to life. At one point it sounds like a 4/4 beat is about to emerge from the cloud of smoke, but as quickly as it shows a glimpse of itself, it vanishes back into the ethereal fuzz.

Before anyone gets a chance to digest what’s happening, Anna’s ten minute set-closer ends with her starting up the Vespa again and floating off stage. It was a compelling show to watch with Anna providing an enigmatic figure for the band to rally around. However, it was a little of a challenge to consume in one sitting, unlike those deconstructed chicken wings.